I have to admit I have no idea how to recap a 12-day adventure within an adventure without sounding a bit like a National Geographic article, so bear with me.
Rob and I started with Pico Mountain in Killington on the first Friday. That morning there had actually been some decent snowfall in Vermont, so the drive was somewhat entertaining. Clear roads, but it seems people still found a way to throw their cars up trees. I’ll never understand the physics behind that. I’m guessing it involves something like: (Trees)(Cellphone + Distraction)sqrt(snow)= One heck of an accident.
We finally made it to Pico, where we quickly figured out it was negative temperatures with the wind chill. Nothing like trying to move around when it feels like you have popsicles for appendages, but fun nonetheless. After thoroughly freezing and making sure I hit all the needed review points, we decided to go find our hotel in Rutland, Vermont.
In a normal town, inexpensive hotels attract sketchy people (and then you spend the entire night wondering about those weird banging sounds). In a ski town, inexpensive places attract… people like me: ski bums, of all varieties. We decided on Ramada Limited, and it appeared to have been a pretty decent choice. It was right next to Panera and the hotel staff was pretty awesome and helpful. We’re staying there again when we re-visit Killington in March.
After ditching the snowboard equipment and changing into even warmer clothes, we headed over to Killington to pick up our “Special Guest” tickets to the Dew Tour. Somehow I have a knack for winning tickets from Toyota Action on Twitter, so Rob and I were treated to a VIP lounge with as much Mountain Dew and Pepsi as we could drink, as well as breakfast and lunch. We never really did figure out what type of seating it got us at the events, but we did manage to spend Friday night sitting in this special tower overlooking the half-pipe men’s ski semi-finals. It was heated with more free soda, so there was certainly nothing to complain about!
Saturday was spent remembering why I don’t go to big resorts on weekends, especially when there are events happening. Holy mob scene! You know a place is too busy when you literally have people crashing into you, running your board over (while you’re moving), and lift lines extend beyond the rope mazes. I’m just hoping March is a little quieter. Doing the review that day would have been unfairly brutal on Killington!
Sunday was when the real fun started. Airports will be airports, but it seems we definitely got the full experience (everything but the TSA pat down). Delayed flights, bad airport food, weird people sitting next to us – you know, the usual.
Our final destination for our flight out was San Francisco, and I’ll say at this point I have little interest in ever going back to San Francisco. By some fun combination of events, our hotel (La Quinta) didn’t seem to actually send our pickup shuttle, and some other hotel within the same chain picked us up and brought us to the wrong hotel. That hotel was sold out, and that shuttle had been the last one of the night. Meanwhile, the correct hotel’s phone system was down. We finally made it to the correct hotel 3 in the morning after calling for a cab which involved a fun ride of sitting on the snowboard bag in the backseat as the cab driver tried to figure out where our hotel was… ah San Francisco.
After getting a few hours of sleep, we picked up our rental car (another epic fail to some extent – thank you, Avis customer service) and started our way out to Lake Tahoe. Now, it’s important to mention that we had spent the entire weekend glued to California’s DOT website. The snowstorm that was dumping feet of snow at Heavenly was making for some fun road conditions on Route 50. Route 50 has a few different conditions: perfectly fine, chains/snow tires required, or closed. It’s very different than New England!
By some sheer luck, we managed to head up Route 50 right as the chain and snow tire restrictions were dropped, so I guess we lucked out. It was still rather crazy though. Out here in the East, most of our roads with big drops have beefy guardrails. Out there – not so much!
Finally, after limos (bummed a company limo ride off my dad who was headed out on a business trip), planes, trains, shuttles, cabs, buses, and trucks – we made it to the beautiful South Lake Tahoe!
The more time I spend on this adventure of mine, the more I realize I really enjoy being a travel reviewer of sorts, even with the ups and downs. It’s not just the constant change or always getting to see new stuff that makes it a great (temporary) gig. It’s really all about the meeting absolutely random people, breaking down barriers, telling my story, learning theirs, and then taking something away from it.
Sometimes it’s where to grab the best food in Lake Tahoe. Other times it’s how to get around all the traffic, or where the best views and places to stay are. Frequently it’s sharing stories of adventures and travels, and the enthusiasm that only a fellow wayfarer can truly grasp. No matter what it is, I’ve come to appreciate it, and I appreciate those who have the kindness to engage in conversation with a complete stranger. It’s a rarity these days.
Why mention this? It seems that in some way or another, the locals and those who have come to call Lake Tahoe home all share the same in common: a sense of adventure, respect for their environment, and extreme hospitality for the kind stranger. I’ve spent much of my still young life looking for that place where most everyone seems to at least have a sense of kindness, respect, and drive to live somewhat on the edge, and I hadn’t found it yet.
It felt like everywhere I had been before Lake Tahoe I was met with a deafening muteness. I mean, really – how hard is it to talk to the stranger on the chairlift with you? Sure, I’d meet the occasional exception, but for the most part I’ve been met with silence, one word answers, or grunts. Lovely, folks.
From the moment we checked in at our condo (Royal Aloha Lake Tahoe), we were greeted with the more positive and sociable outlook. I’ll be doing the actual Heavenly Resort review a little later this week and will talk about the staff there, but when it came to the town itself, it was almost baffling what people were like. Everyone from the cashiers at Raley’s (grocery store) to the doctor at Barton Urgent Care (did I mention I have a knack for getting sick on trips?), was just plain nice. I don’t get it.
As for the area itself, it’s breathtaking. You don’t need to be at the top of Heavenly to figure that out. We took a day off to check out the area and visited Emerald Bay, Zephyr Cove, and Carson City. All of them were pretty incredible in their own way, but I think Emerald Bay off of Route 89 might have been my favorite.
Rob’s family joined us for the last few days of the vacation, so it was interesting to swap from cruising around the mountain not worrying about anything to teaching mode. Fortunately all of our newbie’s did pretty well, and I hope they stick with their chosen winter sports!
On our last full day in Lake Tahoe, we decided to take Rob’s family out to see the area. Somehow we didn’t really fully grasp that a fear of heights in some of them would make for a really brief drive back up to Emerald Bay, but it was great to show them the area anyways.
Finally the day came to check out of our amazing condo, say goodbye to a mountain we now knew like our home, and stop drooling over our dream home (right near the Stagecoach lodge). It’s a lot easier to leave a place when you know you’ll be back!
On the way back to San Francisco, we decided to check off visiting one of the country’s major tourist attractions, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was definitely worth seeing, but for as big as the bridge was, it felt claustrophobic with the thick crowds of tourists and busy traffic roaring by. That night we tried finding a decent burger in San Francisco, but apparently that was easier said than done. And as we slowly learnt, dinner starts at 6:30 out there and usually requires a reservation. Very odd, and so was the burger.
The next morning we headed back over to the airport to finally head home after nearly two weeks away from New Hampshire. Of course with airports being airports, we found out that our initial flight had been cancelled (with a few dozen others) but the next morning around 2am, we finally pulled into our driveway – exhausted, but already ready to go back to Lake Tahoe!